Gemma Ives MA VetMB MRCVS

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Veterinary Technical Advisor, Protexin


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Contact: gcellse25@gmail.com


Veterinary Technical Advisor at a glance

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£36-40K 

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38 hours per week

 
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5/5

 
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Full time but can work from home.

 
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Speak to people who have done it already; re-jig your CV (make it competency based); make a big list of companies you may want to work for and learn where they advertise jobs.

 
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Away from home during the day 2-3 times per week. Away overnight for 2-3 nights per month.

 
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~ 3 years in practice (at least); able to drive; good communication skills.


 
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Ability to retain finer details after learning information; good powerpoint skills; happy giving presentations (or at least happy to start giving it a go and confidence will grow).

 
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Honesty, integrity, empathy, independence, intelligence, creativity.


 

What were your first career steps and how did that work out?

Following graduation I volunteered in the Cook Islands for 8 weeks, before returning to a job in small animal general practice in Essex. It was a busy, big practice, but I had a great rota, colleagues and support network; I'm not sure that I truly appreciated what a fantastic set-up it was until I worked in various other practices further down the line. Despite the support I really struggled with the steep learning curve of going from being a student to a practising vet, and found myself quite overwhelmed, stressed and (while I did not admit it to myself it back then) depressed at times. A period on anti-depressants helped me feel a little better, and by the end of my year and a half there I felt more confident and in control. We then re-located to Hampshire due to my partner's job, where I ended up locuming around the area for ~8 months. Given my ability to easily stress/ worry I surprised myself and actually really enjoyed this. I met some lovely and interesting people and saw how different clinics worked. I then took a permanent position at a small animal hospital. This was technically 'part-time' as I did not work Fridays or full weekends, however I worked fairly long days Mon-Thurs and did every Tuesday night on call. I felt very enthusiastic when I first started, having always enjoyed surgery I enrolled onto a surgery certificate. However, over the next year my mental health took a turn for the worse and I developed anxiety which became depression. I couldn't face going to work in the morning and would cry on a near daily basis on the way in; I felt overwhelmed with the normal day-to-day demands that a role in practice creates. Despite being a naturally happy and jovial person, I lost the ability to find joy in anything. I felt exhausted and emotionally drained. Eventually it came to a head where I broke down and could not go to work one morning, for fear that I may have crashed my car on the way in. I took some time off work and on reflection of the fact that I had felt stressed and anxious even in final year - upon receiving a little responsibility, and intermittently in various clinical environments, I decided that I did not think clinical work was for me, and I needed to try something different.


So how did you decide to become a veterinary technical adviser?

Having decided that working in general practice was not for me, I did not really know where to start looking for alternative options. I had always wanted 'to be a vet', and it had never crossed my mind that I would not then work in practice forever. My sister's friend actually pointed me in the direction of VSGD and it was an absolute lifesaver. I started reading stories about people who described feeling exactly how I had, and I quickly felt less alone. I also started reading about all the different routes people had taken when diversifying away from clinical practice. I am passionate about veterinary medicine, even if I am not suited to clinical work, and while I wanted a different path for my career, I still wanted to continue being a vet. I made myself think about what areas of veterinary I did enjoy: I love the science, I enjoy both learning and teaching along with forming relationships and communicating with people. After researching different roles and what they entailed (this included chatting to various people who I had come across on VSGD), I worked out that I wanted to become a Veterinary Technical Adviser.


What did you need to do to get into this career path?

I needed my MRCVS, and to have worked in practice for about 3 years minimum. Which suited me perfectly - I still need to be a vet for my role, and my experience working in practice is of benefit to the work I do now.

 

My sister's friend actually pointed me in the direction of VSGD and it was an absolute lifesaver. I started reading stories about people who described feeling exactly how I had, and I quickly felt less alone. I also started reading about all the different routes people had taken when diversifying away from clinical practice. I am passionate about veterinary medicine, even if I am not suited to clinical work, and while I wanted a different path for my career, I still wanted to continue being a vet


 

Were there any barriers to entry and how did you overcome them?

The biggest barrier was myself - and re-training my brain to recognise all the skills which I had learnt in practice which were applicable to the new role. I also needed to shake up my CV to reflect this - making it competency based as opposed to a chronological list of previous jobs etc.

 

Gemma at a congress with Protexin

Gemma at a congress with Protexin


 

What are the best bits about your current role and are there any downsides?

I love my new role! I feel like I am back to the old me - which has to be one of the good parts! But also I really enjoy the work itself. I love learning about smaller areas of veterinary medicine in great depth and becoming very knowledgeable about these areas. I really enjoy teaching vets, nurses and new colleagues and attending conferences, chatting to people and forming good relationships. I am passionate about evidence based medicine and am happy to work for a company which is so research based in it's approach. I also find my current company particularly interesting as the microbiota and probiotics are very topical at the moment, and there is a huge amount of emerging research being published on a daily basis. I like the autonomy that this kind of role provides, to a certain extent I can plan my own diary. When not out on the road, I work from home - which may not suit everyone if used to being surrounded by other people and a team on a daily basis, but it works for me. I love that I can pop out with the dog in my lunch break if I want to! I do drive a fair amount, but I quite like driving so this is not a problem for me; and I stay away from home for a night here and there. Though having previously stayed at the practice every Tuesday when I was on call, this is generally an improvement as it does not tend to be every week.


Could you give us an overview of a typical day/tasks?

There is no one typical day - which I really like. It still remains very varied day-to-day which is great. I will regularly answer technical enquiries from owner or vets about our products, this may be via phone or email. Every month I try to spend a day with each of the five sales reps in my area out on the road. During this time we'll go through any worries or concerns they have, any technical queries they have, or presentations they want to go through. I will ideally see them give a lunch and learn so that I can provide feedback to help them develop and progress, and ensure that they are happy with all of the studies they are talking about and the technical information. I have spent time visiting referral centres about our products, giving evening CPD talks to local vets and nurses and giving talks to YVN groups. I attend various veterinary conferences across the country representing Protexin. I have been involved in the launch of new products and regularly contribute towards different marketing projects.


What sort of person would thrive in this career path?

I think someone who is both good at meeting new people and quickly developing a rapport, but also happy to spend time on their own. Someone who thrives off scientific detail, and evidence based medicine but is good as explaining it simply for others to understand. Someone who is good at giving presentations (I was nervous about this at first - but you do learn quickly). Someone who is good at learning fine details and retaining this information. Someone who is self-motivated and well disciplined - you have to be when working from home! Someone who enjoys (or at least does not mind) a fair amount of driving. Someone who is happy and able to stay away form home here and there.


What advice would you give to someone becoming a veterinary technical adviser?

You have SO many skills which you have developed in practice which are transferable to this role - don't ever forget that through dealing with angry clients, or bleeding bitch spays you will have developed many skills which you can bring to your new role. Talk to lots of people who have been through similar changes - this helps to give confidence that you are not the only one going through this. Ask for support from your colleagues when you first start - they all know you haven't done the role before and don't expect you to float straight into it. It is okay to check in with them and make sure you are doing things the right way etc. Believe in yourself - training to be and being a vet are both hard work - that means to have got this far you are a strong and intelligent person!